The sinful acts of attention seeking

By Artur Odwald

Don’t lie, they say. Yet, we are lied to on a daily basis. What’s worse, we accept these lies as the norm. We know that advertisements exaggerate, profile pictures are carefully crafted, and the right narratives are used to make stories colourful. Is it even possible to live without these attention-grabbing tactics?

If you don’t stand out, you blend in. If you’re average, then you’re nothing special. But we want to be special, don’t we? You may think to yourself: everyone lies, so why should I be the only one who doesn’t? Let’s say you choose to be honest and don’t enhance your profile picture. How do you compete with the people that do? Frankly, I think doing just that is the best way to compete. I think that “keeping it real” is a sought-after quality nowadays. Taking it down a notch may make you stand out more than turning it up to eleven.

The use of attention-grabbing tactics might be caused by how we manage our attention needs. In terms of attention, you can seek it either as the giver or the receiver. If you want to give someone your attention, you search for the interesting stuff. You fall for clickbaits, or swipe right on someone who clearly does not look like that in real life. These phenomena are not new, so technically, we should know better than to fall for the lies over and over again. By the way, judging a person by a photo and a few lines of self-description is already questionable. You can also be on the other side, where you create something to make it more appealing. Then you justify your actions, because what else are you supposed to do? No one wants their content to be ignored.

Although, is making everything seemingly more special necessary? Kids find mundane things interesting. Sometimes a pile of toys is not as fun as a garden hose, or a stapler. Perhaps our assumptions are what creates this issue. The fear of being ignored forces us to create shiny things, so we fill the world with shiny stuff. We raise the bar, so the next thing must be even shinier. We end up in a vicious circle. The situation we feared is exactly what we created.

How do we fix this? Sadly, awareness isn’t enough. Awareness only shows the direction. It does not cause motion. We have a responsibility. We need to be the driving force that causes change. Sometimes we need to let go, because not all areas of our lives require clever marketing.

A great, or terrible (depending on how we look at it), example was presented in a recently published article, written in Polish, by Kacper Peresada on dadhero.pl. The author interviewed a man who, as a kid, took part in a TV show called “Superniania”. The idea of the show was that parents who had trouble with their kids called the so-called “super nanny” for help. She would come in and bring order to the chaos – with cameras, of course.

There was, however, a major problem. The parents were not half as interested in the parenting advice as they were in the fame that would come with the program. From the kid’s perspective, the parents only changed when the cameras were around. Once the cameras were gone, things were back to the way they were. The parents even invited their friends for the premiere of their episode, which I find disturbing, since it’s as though they took pride in their dysfunctional relations.

We know that TV operates on ratings, and the shows are made to be interesting, if not sometimes outrageous. It’s something we’ve grown to accept, even though I’m not a big fan of such justifications. The parents, however, should not use their kids to get famous. Especially in this disturbing way.

There may be other areas where a less flashy choice could be more appealing. Chasing fame is one example. It may as well be spicing up your CV, doing something silly to gain someone’s attention, or following a trend to seem cool. The comfort we find in popular choices may not always be the right call and could do more harm than good.

Just be yourself. In the end, it’ll feel better this way.


Artur Odwald is Editor-in-chief of Unicorner. He is a student at Społeczna Akademia Nauk.